Stop The Bleeding: When A Spouse Is Dissipating Assets
Divorce can stem from many sources, and also provoke a number of unpleasant and unanticipated responses. The other spouse may not act in a reasonable manner, and intentionally seek to punish and deprive a spouse of important financial support by taking deliberate action to dissipate marital assets. Property division is one of the main issues that creates conflict in divorce, and suspicions or evidence that a spouse is planning to sell off or give away marital assets is a critical concern that needs to be addressed quickly, so the other party is not permanently damaged financially. A Florida woman in a heated divorce battle recently asked a New York judge to grant her an interest in a $15 million apartment owned by a shell company controlled by her husband. The husband is alleged to have fled the country with his mistress and a substantial percentage of the couple’s assets. A discussion of what a spouse can do to limit the dissipation of assets, and how such acts affect the outcome of a divorce case, will follow below.
What Is Dissipation?
Before exploring ways to mitigate or halt attempts to dissipate assets, it is first necessary to understand what these types of acts are. Disagreeing with a spouse over financial decisions does not automatically mean dissipation or misconduct occurred, behavior necessary to move a judge to restore financial losses to the innocent spouse. Specifically, mismanagement of finances or squandering assets is not enough for dissipation. Instead, dissipation is largely dependent upon a person’s intent, and the timing of the financial transactions. A spouse must deliberately intend to hide or waste assets in order to deprive the other spouse of their financial benefits. Examples of dissipation include:
- transferring money to family members;
- wiring funds overseas;
- running up debt to punish the other spouse; or
- changing the beneficiary of a life insurance policy from a spouse to a new romantic partner.
In addition, these activities must occur during the two years around the filing for divorce, and be connected to the breakdown of the marriage. Thus, a spouse blindsided by divorce papers may not be able to claim dissipation, as evidence of a motivation to financially punish the spouse for divorce is likely hard to prove.
Stopping Dissipating Acts
Working with an experienced divorce attorney on halting further financial damage, once dissipation is suspected, is essential to getting a fair divorce settlement from any assets that are left. The primary method used to restrict further waste is to request an injunction from a court that blocks a spouse from removing or reducing the value of property located in this state. Actions that violate this court order would expose the spouse to contempt, and likely require posting a certain amount of money with the court to deter future violations, as well as to avoid jail time.
Impact on the Outcome of Divorce
Courts do not want to reward bad behavior by a spouse that jeopardizes the other party’s ability to financially support him/herself or his/her children. Consequently, while Florida is an equitable division state for purposes of property division, which usually results in a 50/50 split of marital assets, dissipation of assets would produce a much different result. Typically, a court will grant a greater share of the marital assets to the innocent spouse, in an amount that roughly equals what was wasted, or look to the guilty spouse’s separate assets if the remaining marital assets are insufficient to compensate for the misconduct.
Contact a Florida Divorce Attorney
Dissipating marital assets is a serious claim, and will require amassing a large amount of complex evidence. Joyce A. Julian, P.A. helps divorcing clients in the Fort Lauderdale area receive fair settlements, and uses experience as a former judge and forensic accountant to get clients the outcome they deserve. Contact the office today for a free consultation.